The Engine

By Ella Wheeler Wilcox 1850–1919
Into the gloom of the deep, dark night,
   With panting breath and a startled scream;
Swift as a bird in sudden flight
   Darts this creature of steel and steam.

Awful dangers are lurking nigh,
   Rocks and chasms are near the track,
But straight by the light of its great white eye
   It speeds through the shadows, dense and black.

Terrible thoughts and fierce desires
   Trouble its mad heart many an hour,
Where burn and smoulder the hidden fires,
   Coupled ever with might and power.

It hates, as a wild horse hates the rein,
   The narrow track by vale and hill;
And shrieks with a cry of startled pain,
   And longs to follow its own wild will.

Source: American Poetry: The Nineteenth Century (The Library of America, 1993)

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Poet Ella Wheeler Wilcox 1850–1919

Subjects Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Metaphor

 Ella Wheeler Wilcox


Ella Wheeler Wilcox was born in Johnstown, Wisconsin and her poetry was being published by the time she graduated from high school. Her poetry was very popular, generally written in plain, rhyming verse. Her works include Poems of Passion (1883), A Woman of the World (1904), Poems of Peace (1906), Poems of Experience (1910), and Poems (1919).

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Poetic Terms Metaphor

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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